British Columbia

Prominent Vancouver business finds new success in Surrey

Guru Bazaar owner Sunny Khurana decided that Surrey's growing population and lower cost of doing business made it a more attractive option than Vancouver.

Guru Bazaar drawn to lower costs, growing population south of the Fraser

Some retailers are leaving Vancouver because of rising rents 2:54

For more than 43 years, Guru Bazaar has been a staple of Vancouver's South Asian retail landscape with its flagship store on Fraser Street and its massive space in the Punjabi market on Main Street.

But about a year ago, the sari and fabric store's owner, Sunny Khurana, decided that Surrey's growing population and lower cost of doing business made it a more attractive option.

He decided to close down his Main Street location and purchase his own retail space in Surrey on 128th Street near 80th Avenue. 

For Khurana and the Guru Bazaar, it was important to follow its mostly South Asian clientele as it shifted increasingly to the Surrey area. 

"All of the new immigrants that were coming in, because Vancouver was starting to become very expensive, they were coming into the Surrey market," he said. 

"So they're here, plus a lot of the Vancouver families were finding that they could sell their house in Vancouver and buy two in Surrey."

Even though Khurana, who began working at the shop with his father when he was ten-years-old, considered Guru Bazaar to be one of the best destinations for Indian garments, he still worried about losing customers to shops opening up in Surrey. That worry provided the catalyst to pick up roots and move south of the Fraser River. 

"Slowly and steadily, when stores are closer to home, people end up going to those stores to look around. What happens is that you're giving people the chance to go into other stores and they might like the service, they might like the products and they may not come to you," the owner said. 

Anita Huberman, the CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said there are many businesses just like the Guru Bazaar who have chosen to leave Vancouver behind in favour of Surrey. 

"The cost of living and the cost of leases is getting higher and higher in Vancouver. When you look at Surrey, especially for small businesses, their entrepreneurial dream is to be able to own their own property, to be able to be successful in their business, so Surrey is where it's at," she said. 

Huberman pointed to massive growth, more than 1,200 people moving to Surrey every month, a large immigrant community and the up and coming downtown core as reasons that businesses are targeting the city.

"We are where Vancouver was 60 years ago, we're building a city from the ground up," Huberman said. 

After nearly a year of doing business in Surrey, Sunny Khurana said the results for his store have been very impressive. 

"It's all about what is your return on what you're investing. We've been here nine or ten months now and we definitely are getting a better return," he said.

"You have to go with the flow, if you don't change with the times, you won't be around very long."

CBC is "In Your Neighbourhood". Join us for a live remote broadcast of CBC Radio One's 'The Early Edition' and 'On the Coast' in Surrey at the SFU campus (250-13450 102nd Avenue). CBC News Vancouver will also be on location and broadcasting live.


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